Despite not being among the favorites to win Euro 2020, Croatia is one of the dark horses for success this summer.
Zlatko Dalic’s players, who defeated England en route to the 2018 World Cup final, return with a lot of quality at their disposal and will quietly fancy themselves for another great run.
Can Croatia’s heroic skipper lead his country to its best hour in what will undoubtedly be his final European Championship appearance?
The Vatreni were consistently capable of defeating the conventional major hitters, reaching the World Cup semi-final in 1998 and the final two decades later.
Their European Championship record is less remarkable, as they have never advanced beyond the quarter-finals.
They will, however, be optimistic about England, Scotland, and the Czech Republic’s chances at Euro 2020.
What made them qualified?
Despite finishing first in their group and qualifying for the finals, Croatia had a difficult qualification campaign.
No group winner scored less than 17 points, yet that was enough to put them three points ahead of Wales in second and four ahead of Slovakia in third.
They nevertheless won five of their last eight games, losing only once, and enter the competition with two victories in their previous three games.
Coach Dalic has a talented roster to select from, and he’ll most likely use a 4-5-1 formation to make the most of his talented midfielders.
Real Madrid’s Modric, 35, is the team’s lynchpin, with Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan and Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic likely to join him in the middle of the field.
Croatia, on the other hand, will be without Sevilla star Ivan Rakitic, who will retire from international football in 2020.
The benefit of having wide players like Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic is that they can spread the play and cross the ball into Andrej Kramaric, who is likely to start upfront, in addition to dominating the center of the game.
Borna Barisic is expected to start at left-back, opposite Sime Vrsaljko of Atletico Madrid, with Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren lining up in front of goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Barisic; Rebic, Kovacic, Brozovic, Modric, Perisic; Kramaric.